Father and son honored for soil conservation

For their excellent soil conservation efforts, Smith Farms, Neil Smith, right, and Kevin Smith, center, were honored with Osage County’s 2013 Kansas Bankers Soil Conservation Award, presented by Jerry Meng, of First Security Bank, Overbrook.

By Art Hastert, NRCS Soil Conservationist

The 2013 recipient of the Kansas Bankers Soil Conservation Award in Osage County is Smith Farms. The award is presented annually to persons who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in the conservation of soil and water resources.

Smith Farms is a father-son team of Neil Smith and his son Kevin. Smith Farms operates farmland situated mainly in northeastern Osage County and southeastern Shawnee County. The farm is a diversified crop-livestock operation consisting of cropland, brome pasture and hay land, and native grass pasture and hay land. Together the father and son farm over 1,800 acres of cropland. The ground they own, along with the farm’s headquarters, is in Osage County.

Part of the land was farmed previously by Neil’s Dad, Albert Smith, who won the Kansas Bankers Soil Conservation Award in 1997. Neil and his wife, Joni, have two sons Kevin and Tyler. After high school, Kevin attended Pittsburg State University and received a B.S. degree in diesel technology. After working for a year in private industry, Kevin decided to come home and take up farming full time.

Neil has always been a steward of the soil as he started early in his operations by maintaining waterways and terraces installed on his farm. Minimum tillage with a typical corn-soybean rotation is practiced, along with some no-till. Nutrient management in the form of soil testing and applying fertilizer rates according to recommendations is also practiced. Waterways are well-maintained by mowing and haying, and are free of weeds and trees.

On the native grass, extensive brush management has been applied in the form of tree sawing, chemical aerial spraying, and prescribed burning. Much of the brush management was accomplished through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Both Kevin and Neil presently participate in a 5-year program called the Conservation Stewardship Program, in which several activities are being conducted to reduce pesticide drift and to improve water quality in cropland, hay land, and pastureland.

Enhanced efficiency fertilizer products are being applied and a new chemical sprayer equipped with drift-reducing nozzles that utilizes GPS technology to prevent chemical overlap are just a few of the activities being practiced.

In addition to being a good steward of the land, Neil Smith has in the past served on the local rural water district board, the coop board, and the Overbrook fair board.

This year’s county key banker, Jerry Meng, of First Security Bank, Overbrook, presented the award at the Feb. 3 annual meeting of the Osage County Conservation District.

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